Day 1 – Depart for Dublin, Ireland
Our outbound overnight flight departs for Dublin with food service.
Day 2 – Dublin City
We arrive in Dublin and start by visiting Trinity College where the the Book of Kells is on display, and the Long Room library. Then we’ll visit St. Patrick’s Cathedral and the famous Christ Church. If we arrive at 1:30, it’s possible we might hear a choir concert that’s part of their lunchtime concert series. Free time in the afternoon. Dinner is provided at the hotel tonight. Hotel and dinner:
Day 3 Glendalough and Phoenix Park
This morning after breakfast we’ll visit the ancient ruins of Glendalough Abbey, a monastic settlement founded by St. Kevin, the monk that lived in a tree in the 6th century. The churches, abbeys, and the famous round towers make this one of the most venerated sites in Ireland, and they are legendary. The drive takes us an hour south of Dublin into the Wicklow Mountains. Also, we’ll visit Phoenix Park, home to the President of Ireland and the American Ambassador to Ireland. There will be little free time for shopping on Grafton Street pedestrian area to make this a full day. Dinner is on our own tonight.
Day 4 Dublin – Killarney
This morning we have an early departure for Killarney by way of Waterford for our stop there to tour the Waterford Crystal factory. This is a special stop that everyone will enjoy, and we’ll have time for lunch there and a visit to their showroom. Time permitting, we’ll also have a short stop at Blarney Castle, built in 1210 A.D. This is your chance to kiss the Blarney Stone and receive all its benefits…and shop at the Blarney Woollen Mills. Then we continue the rest of the way to Killarney.
Day 5 — Ring of Kerry
After a full Irish breakfast at the hotel, we’ll drive the Ring of Kerry, a scenic tour of constantly changing mountain and coastline scenery. The road winds between the MacGillycuddy’s Reeks, the highest mountains in Ireland, and along the Atlantic Ocean and we will enjoy stops to admire views, starting with an early stop to overlook Dingle Bay. If available, we’ll see Brendan Ferris, the Sheppard, who shows how to control sheepdogs from a distance on the mountain and answers all questions—an excellent show. Then we travel through Caherdaniel and Waterville at the western end of the peninsula and enjoy the bracing Atlantic breezes. We continue our drive through the colourful village of Sneem and the vantage point of Moll’s Gap through the National Park to Killarney and back to the hotel by mid-afternoon, with some free time for exploring and dinner on our own.
Day 6 — Killarney/Galway
After breakfast, we travel to Galway via Adare & Limerick. We’ll stop at the picturesque village of Adare and on through Limerick City to Galway City for two nights. We arrive in time to explore Galway for a short a walking tour of the city, visiting the original site of ‘The Lynching’, the Spanish Arch, the site of Columbus last prayers, and more. Then it’s free time for the rest of the afternoon. Dinner is provided tonight at the hotel. Hotel and dinner:
Day 7 – Aran Islands by ferry
Another great breakfast at the hotel, and then we drive a bit and then check in for the Aran Island Ferry at the port of Rossaveel. The ferry crossing is about one hour across Galway Bay, arriving at Kilronan, where we’ll be met by our driver/guide Bertie Mullen. He will take us on a mini-bus tour of the island. The highlight is Dun Aengus, a promontory fort on 600-foot cliffs overlooking the Atlantic. After lunch on our own, we continue our tour. We return to Kilronan to catch the ferry at 4:00 pm, returning to Galway for a relaxing evening in town for shopping and dinner on our own in one of the many fine restaurants or pubs.
Day 8 — Galway to Glasgow and Edinburgh
We check out early today and drive to Dublin to catch our short flight to Glasgow, Scotland. We arrive at about 10:30 AM, to be met by our licensed Scottish guide and driver for the next 5 days. Leaving the airport, we’ll travel to Stirling for a visit to the Castle. The Great Hall has been rebuilt as it was built in 1503 by James the IV and Mary Queen of Scots was crowned there in 1543. The Castle remained a military barracks until 1964, housing the Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders. From there we’ll travel via the Falkirk Wheel–a marvellous feat of engineering designed to lift canal barges from one level to another level. We will also stop to see the Kelpies (the name given to mystical sea horses in Scotland). From there we’ll arrive in Edinburgh to check into our hotel. After dinner, we can stroll and enjoy the excellent location of the hotel. Hotel and dinner:
Day 9 — Edinburgh
We start the day with a guided city panoramic tour of Edinburgh including sights the Royal Mile, the Scottish Parliament, Holyrood Palace, Princes Street, the Old Town and the New Town, finishing with a visit to Edinburgh Castle and all it has to see. The remainder of the day and evening is free to enjoy the sites of your choice. John Knox’s house, the Museum of Scotland, St. Giles cathedral, and the many shops on the Royal Mile and Princes Street are a few choices. Another option for the afternoon is a visit to Rosslyn Chapel, featured in the film The da Vinci Code. www.rosslynechapel.com Dinner is on our own tonight.
Day 10 – Edinburg to the Highlands
We leave Edinburgh and travel towards Perth, the gateway to the Highlands. Our route takes us across the Firth of Forth running parallel to the Forth Railway Bridge, completed in 1880. The bridge has recently been awarded World Heritage site. We bypass Perth and travel up through the heart of Scotland, visiting Dunkeld with its beautiful cathedral on the banks of the River Tay and also Pitlochry, which has the smallest whisky distillery in Scotland. Then on to Blair Castle, the only white castle in Scotland and the seat of the Murray family, the Duke of Atholl. He is unique in that he is the only person in Scotland allowed to have his own private army, the Atholl Highlanders. Our route will also pass through Aviemore, Scotland’s top ski resort, before arriving Inverness. The view as you drop down to sea level is spectacular.
Day 11 – Tain and Dornoch
From Inverness we travel north to the town of Tain which holds the oldest royal charter for a town in Scotland, dating back to 1066. Tain also boasts the Glenmorangie Whisky Distillery, recently voted the best whisky in the world. There we will take the tour, taste the goods, and form our own opinion. We then continue to Dornoch for a visit to its ancient cathedral, which is small but beautiful. Time may allow us to travel a bit further north to Golspie to visit Dunrobin Castle, the home of the Duke of Sutherland. To this day the family is very unpopular due to their part in the dreadful Highland Clearances—be sure to ask our guide why… From there we return to Inverness along the northern shores of the Dornoch Firth to Bonar Bridge and then through the Struie Hills from which there is a spectacular view over the area. The rest of the day is free and we enjoy dinner on our own in Inverness tonight.
Day 12 – Loch Ness, Loch Lomond and Glasgow
Today, we travel down the shores of Loch Ness with a stop at Urquhart castle for a visit. We’ll continue down the Loch to Fort Augustus and through the Great Glen to Fort William for a brief stop. Both these towns have the name “Fort” as Government troops were barracked there in order to keep the clans in line after the ill-fated Jacobite rebellion with Bonnie Prince Charlie. Then we continue down through the spectacular pass of Glencoe and the bleak Rannoch Moor to the shores of Loch Lomond. Then we cross the River Clyde, known worldwide for ship building, and into Glasgow for our last night.
Day 13 – Home again, home again.
After a hearty breakfast we say goodbye to Scotland and travel to Glasgow airport for a flight home.